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Bringing a design to fruition cheaply?


I have a client who asked me to create a certain design (it’s a
design with three pieces). I made a soft wax mold of my design, but
my caster’s estimate is far too pricey for the project.

So this is the thing. I would REALLY like to find a way to create
this piece within the very narrow financial needs of the client (it
would be seen by a lot of people who might be willing to use my
services if they saw it) but it’s clear I can’t do it through my
regular channels. So…

Is there anyone out there who could take on this project? The piece
need not be in silver (copper or brass are ok too, though I know
there aren’t a lot of people who work with copper and brass) – I
used to myself in college, but that was a LONG time ago and I don’t
have the tools I used to use way back then (nor the skills I had
when all my time was working with metal and wax).


Sometimes it may be worthwhile to create a piece that is not
immediately profitable in and of itself-- attention and publicity
have real, if less immediate, value. I believe it is a “penny wise
pound foolish” decision to look only at the short-term payment when
there is a bigger picture, like an award, or a magazine cover, or an
influential placement. Though in the case of a client getting a
bargain for such a reason, I might elicit a promise not to disclose
the deal they got on the price.


requires no special tools other than the ability to melt some metal.
It’s essentially a “green-sand” casting method specially adapted for
small castings suitable for jewellers.

I’ve used it many times and its possible to recreate very fine
details, albeit with the caveat that undercuts, if not impossible,
are rather difficult.

Regards, Gary Wooding

How cheap is cheap? How complex is the project?

If your caster’s quote is too expensive, that doesn’t speak well for
anyone being able to do it cheaper without going back to the drawing
board. There are usually things one can do to make a piece for less
money but they involve compromises or “adjustments”.

There are times when you should just say no, you need to get the
same per hour price for your labor no matter what the piece is made
from. If the client can’t afford it, it is not a problem with you. I
know it is hard to say no, I also want to please everyone that walks
in. I explain to them that my labor is the same for gold, silver and
they understand and usually pay the price. You mention it will be
seen by people that might use your services, that is probably true,
but will they come in wanting brass or copper jewelry for cheap. As
jewelers and artist we should keep up an image of what we do and
always work to improve that image. By the way, just for a wax pattern
I charge minimum $250.00, it usually does not take that many hours
for the wax, but it includes design time, thinking about how its
going to be made time, customer approving the wax time , and then
usually modifying it a little time, etc etc etc time.

Bill Wismar


Oh, absolutely – I don’t think I’ll have any trouble getting this
client to not reveal the price. I’ve given people better prices
before for things with the promise not to tell people what I charged



In actuality, if I were still able to cut silver myself, it’s not
that hard (I’ve done harder in the past) but at this point I’m not
capable nor do I have the proper tools anymore.


If the client can't afford it, it is not a problem with you. 

Bill’s words can also be put as, “If you don’t have the money, then
why are you here wasting my time?”

We have had two “slaves” lately. Art college students who have been
hanging around doing menial labor just as a way of hanging out in a
real jewelry shop - not skilled enough to do much of anything worth
paying for. That’s not a cut - they are sophomores, just getting
into it. We’ve talked about many things, and one of those things is
the need to pay the rent.

Both of them said, “Nobody’s ever talked about these things in

In this case I’d say that if you are a youngster with nothing else
to do, then any project is better than no project. But if you have
real work to do, do it. You’re not there to provide charitable works
to anybody who wants it. Yes, somebody might see it and want more of
the same (as Bill points out, it will be brass for 50 cents). I’m
about to check my lottery ticket - I might have won that, too.


In actuality, it’s for a relative, someone I care about. I want to
do it more as a favor to her.